Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill appeared to find his groove during the first half of Sunday’s 36-13 loss to the New England Patriots in Foxboro.
The 32-year-old QB completed his first eight passes, and a depleted Titans’ offense that was sans A.J. Brown, Julio Jones and Derrick Henry appeared to be operating just fine.
But then Tannehill completed only three of his final 13 passes. In addition, he was held under 100 yards passing for the first time as a Titan and just the third time in the regular season during his nine-year NFL career
Sure, Tannehill was throwing to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Chester Rogers, Dez Fitzpatrick and Cody Hollister — who have a modest 163 receptions, 1,822 yards and 10 touchdowns between them — but he has been without both Brown and Jones at varying points this season and didn’t play nearly as poorly.
His 11 completions were tied for the third-fewest of his career, and Sunday was also the first time this season Tennessee’s leading receiver had fewer than three receptions and 40 yards (Westbrook-Ikhine had two receptions for 25 yards against New England).
It was also only the second time this season Tannehill failed to record a completion of 25 yards or longer.
Tannehill leads the league in interceptions and sacks. He has thrown five interceptions in his last two games, and he has been picked off in eight of Tennessee’s 12 games this year. His 13 interceptions are tied for the second-most of his career.
In fact, Tannehill has as many interceptions through 12 games this season as he had in his first 28 games with the Titans combined. His latest gaffe came in the fourth quarter when he tried to force a pass to Hollister in the back of the end zone.
It was intercepted by J.C. Jackson and killed a 14-play, 73-yard drive that could have pulled Tennessee to within six points. He also had two other throws that should have been picked off but weren’t.
It should also be noted that Tennessee has nine turnovers to zero takeaways over the last two weeks. In the Titans’ four losses, they’ve lost the turnover battle 10-2. In contrast, in their eight wins, they have turned the ball over only nine times.
“I have to play clean football,” Tannehill said of the turnovers. “You kill the momentum. We're marching the ball. I felt like every time we touched it, we were doing good things. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot a couple times by putting it on the ground.”
Tannehill hasn’t been the same quarterback Titans’ fans have grown accustomed to over the last three years. He actually appears to have regressed in some passing categories.
He currently has an 84.7 passer rating — the third-worst of his career and his lowest mark in three seasons with the Titans. In his first two years with Tennessee, Tannehill had a rating of 100 or better, including a 117.5 rating in 2019 — the fifth-best single-season mark in NFL history.
Tannehill’s percentage of on-target throws (passes that hit the intended receiver) has been dipping as well. He went from 80.9 percent in 2019 to 77.3 percent in 2020. He is currently at 78 percent this season. Tannehill’s yards per completion have also been on the decline as well, falling from 9.6 in 2019 to 7.9 last year, to 7.1 this year.
Now the question that needs answered is simple: Is this who Tannehill is now — just an average QB running blessed with top-notch playmakers when healthy — or is this simply a case of a team not surrounding their quarterback with enough complementary pieces outside of its two 1,000-yard receivers and its 2,000-yard running back?
Either way, perhaps no Titans player will benefit more from Tennessee’s upcoming bye week than Tannehill.
“Taking a little time away, resetting the mind and clearing the head a little bit,” Tannehill said of how he plans to spend his upcoming downtime. “Then get ready for a big last section of the season. Obviously, we have a lot of opportunities in front of us. We just need to clean it up, play better football and start stacking some wins.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_